Iron Maiden Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind: Iron Maiden’s Metal Masterpiece

With the success of 1982’s Number of the Beast, one would think Iron Maiden would be hard pressed to follow it with an equal or better record, but they did just that with Piece of Mind.

Despite bringing in a new drummer in yet another personnel change, 1983’s Piece of Mindturned out to be an amazing album and it defined Maiden’s modern, mid-late 1980s sound.

The album was quickly recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas from January to March, 1983, and is the first to feature drummer Nicko McBrain after former skin-basher Clive Burr was ousted from Maiden in December, 1982.

Coming off the phenomenal Beast album and tour, the band was getting comfortable with each other as singer Bruce Dickinson had time to get fully adjusted to the workings of Iron Maiden. Dickinson had more influence on the songwriting, composing “Revelations”, while co-writing on “Flight of Icarus”, “Die with your Boots On”, and “Sun and Steel”.

“I think on this album, because Bruce has been in a band awhile and was also very involved with the writing, he’s more relaxed,” said bassist Steve Harris in a 1983 interview with Kevin Thompson for Artist Magazine. “So the vocal performance is tremendous. He’s so quick in the studio because his ear for pitch is so good – he just gets up there and bang, it retains a great live feel.”

Most of the songs were written at Hotel le Chalet in New Jersey during the hotel’s off-season, then recorded down in Nassau.

Certainly, Piece of Mind sets the mark for the “new Maiden” in terms of personnel and how the band sounds on record. It’s the first record of the great bunch that includes PowerslaveSomewhere in Time and Seventh Son of Seventh Son to have that clean, crisp, modern metal sound.

“I think it’s now becoming what Iron Maiden is all about, and we expect it’s going to develop from there,” said Harris at the time.

Iron Maiden World Piece Tour 1983

Sound of the Mind

The distinct sound of Piece of Mind is in no small part thanks to producer Martin “Black Night” Birch, who began working with the band on the Killers record. While Number of the Beast had a very doomy, dark feel to it (like it was recorded in a catacomb), Piece of Mind was very crisp and open.

“Martin has always added his expertise in the studio and his great ability at recording our sounds,” noted Harris. “We’ve only just come to this point in our drum and guitar sounds, which are exceptional now – it’s just a team growing up together.”

The album came together very quickly, with Harris noting “Where Eagles Dare” was recorded in two takes.

“Revelations” was a Dickinson song, that Harris feels comes off much better live than on the album. Same with “Flight of Icarus”, which was the first single off the album (it hit No.12 on the Billboard Rock Chart). Harris prefers it better live because it’s faster, and if he had his druthers, the band would have put more pace into it on the record, but Dickinson argued for a slower, more plodding beat.

Backwards Message on Piece of Mind

The backwards recording before “Still Life” was Maiden getting back at all the religious freaks who came down on the because of Number of the Beast. The recording is actually a drunken McBrain doing an impersonation of Idi Amin (leader of Uganda in the 1970s), so the accent is very thick. Played forwards its says: “What ho, said da t’ing wid da t’ree bonce. Don’t meddle wit t’ings you don’t understand.”

McBrain said the band had enough of being labelled as Satanic: “We were sick and tired of being labelled as Devil worshippers and all this bollocks by these fucking morons in the States, so we thought, ‘Right, you want to take the piss? We’ll show you how to take the bleeding piss, my son!’ And one of the boys taped me in the middle of this Idi Amin routine I used to do when I’d had a few drinks. I remember it distinctly ended with the words, ‘Don’t meddle wid t’ings yo don’t understand.’ We thought, if people were going to be stupid about this sort of thing, we might as well give them something to be really stupid about, you know?”

Another cool song on the album and very underrated, is “To Tame A Land”, which was based on the “Dune” novels by Frank Herbert. Interestingly, back in 1983, Harris said it’s the best song he’s ever written up to that point.

With Piece of Mind, Iron Maiden really came into their own and began a string of phenomenal records that carried on until 1990, when Adrian Smith left the band while in pre-production for “No Prayer for the Dying”.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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